Watford 0-1 Stoke: Darren Fletcher strikes to ease pressure on Mark Hughes
By Ben Grounds
Last Updated: 28/10/17 6:22pm
Stoke enjoyed their first Premier League away win of the season to ease the pressure on Mark Hughes as Darren Fletcher's sweetly-struck volley was enough to seal a 1-0 win over Watford.
Fletcher met Xherdan Shaqiri's corner with a controlled volley on his right foot after 16 minutes at Vicarage Road with the ball flying past the unsighted Heurelho Gomes via a slight deflection off Troy Deeney.
On an off day for Marco Silva's side, Watford failed to produce a single shot on target with Charlie Adam hitting the post deep into stoppage time as the hosts piled men forward in search of an equaliser.
Watford: Gomes (6), Kiko (6), Holebas (7), Britos (6), Kabasele (6), Cleverley (6), Doucoure (6), Capoue (6), Richarlison (7), Carrillo (6), Deeney (6)
Subs: Gray (6), Hughes (6)
Away Team: Butland (7), Shawcross (9), Zouma (8), Wimmer (7), Pieters (7), Allen (7), Fletcher (8), Choupo-Moting (6), Diouf (8), Shaqiri (7), Ramadan (7)
Subs: Adam (5), Berahino (6)
Man of the match: Shawcross (Stoke)
The result moves the Potters up to 13th in the Premier League while Watford drop to seventh.
Stoke did a fine job of frustrating the hosts, and there were several flashpoints on the pitch which resulted in eight yellow cards brandished by Michael Oliver.
Troy Deeney was cautioned late on for an angry altercation with Joe Allen after Watford refused to return possession to their opponents after the ball was kicked out.
Watford made two changes from the side which lost at Chelsea. Andre Carrillo and Etienne Capoue came in for Adrian Mariappa and Roberto Pereyra. Stoke made three changes to the side beaten at home to Bournemouth as Kevin Wimmer replaced Geoff Cameron, Xherdan Shaqiri returned from an ankle injury to replace Glen Johnson and Jese dropped to the bench as Ramadan Sobhi was given the nod.
It was Watford who began the match full of confidence, seeing plenty of the ball in the opening stages before Stoke took the lead against the run of play. Fletcher, who arrived at Stoke on a free transfer from West Brom in the summer, marked his 101st consecutive Premier League game with a sublime finish from Shaqiri's drilled corner to the edge of the box.
Watford continued to dominate possession thereafter and Richarlison had a glorious chance to equalise after good work from Andre Carrillo but the Brazilian could only find the side netting with the goal gaping.
But it was Stoke who had the better chances on the break as Gomes saved from substitute Saido Berahino.
As Watford piled forward in search of salvaging a late point, Stoke very nearly wrapped up the victory in the sixth minute of stoppage time as Charlie Adam danced his way around Gomes but could only strike the post.
- Watford have lost their last four games against Stoke, after winning four of the previous six (D2) and keeping a clean sheet in each match in that run.
- The Hornets mustered 14 shots in the game without directing any on target; only Burnley managed more shots in a Premier League game this season without directing one on target (20 v West Brom in August).
- Watford have suffered consecutive league defeats for the first time this season and since losing their last six league games of 2016/17.
- Darren Fletcher netted his first Premier League goal in his last 26 appearances in the competition, since scoring for West Brom v Sunderland on January 21st, 2017.
- Xherdan Shaqiri has been involved in four goals in his last six top-flight games (one goal, three assists), after just three goal involvements in the 19 games before that.
Marco Silva: "I'm disappointed of course, in the first half we didn't play in our normal image. We gave one gift, the goal. In that moment we lost our focus and they scored a good goal.
"The second half was mostly our team, they played with 10 men behind the ball. It is normal when a team is in that position in the table."
Mark Hughes: "We've had a little bit of criticism and rightly so. Last weekend was disappointing and maybe we underestimated how much the Manchester City result had on us, but we showed a reaction today.
"I'm a little disappointed with the reaction of Troy Deeney. They should've given the ball back to us, so it wasn't in the spirit of the game. He grabs Allen by the face, which is not what you want to see. It hasn't covered him in any good light in my view."
Man of the match - Ryan Shawcross
Kurt Zouma did a brilliant job in keeping Watford's in-form forward Richarlison quiet down the left but this was a real captain's display from Shawcross in the heart of Stoke's defence.
At fault for Bournemouth's crucial second goal last weekend on his return to the side following a back injury, the experienced defender made countless clearances and vital blocks during the second half to ensure only a second Premier League clean sheet of the season.
Watford travel to face Everton at Goodison Park next in the Premier League on November 5 while Stoke host Leicester at the bet365 Stadium a day earlier.